“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” -Joseph Campbell

Pristine local harbors. Dense Eastern forests. Granite ridglines. These are the places the Avalon Natural Connections uses as its classroom. Your own two feet, your hands, your capable mind. These are tools that will help you discover your ties to the natural world, as well as your own strengths, during our two-week experiential program.

Our ethos in the Avalon Natural Connections is that we sometimes need to disconnect from our busy, scheduled lives in order to unlock and connect with the leaders and strong individuals waiting to emerge in all of us. The natural world provides us with the perfect backdrop to explore what we truly value; through exploration we can return home to a more grounded version of ourselves.

Successful candidates will demonstrate an earnest interest in exploring the outdoors (regardless of experience) and in learning about their own leadership potential in a unique and cooperative setting.

During our time away from Long Island, the program will request that program participants not bring any electronic devices. Please understand this requirement before submitting your application.

The program was created in 2007 by Avalon Park director Katharine Griffiths and local educators Doug Elliot and Steve Gessler. While our program has evolved during the last decade, one thing has remained constant-our commitment to help teens connect with the natural world surrounding them.


There is a work component to this program and students will be expected to complete assigned projects throughout the course and time will be given each day for mandatory journaling. Students should expect to participate in group discussions and projects as well as individual tasks.

Students should be aware that they will be participating in outdoor physical activities and a moderate level of physical fitness will be necessary in order to participate fully and comfortably.

Selection into the program constitutes the awarding of a scholarship to the participant – no costs shall be incurred by the students.

Parental permission is mandatory for participation.

Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from Avalon Park. Transportation to offsite programs will be provided from Avalon Park to destination and back.

A selection committee will review all completed applications and a shortlist will be compiled. These applicants will be required to attend a brief interview with the selection committee after which final selections will be made. Selected participants will be notified by mail.

Week One: On-Island

During our first week, participants will spend the bulk of their time on the water. We will spend our first day forming connections with our new-found friends through a rigorous orienteering program in the park. This bonding day is always a group favorite and will give you a chance to learn and explore the topography and trails of Avalon Nature Preserve. The remainder of the week will take us adventuring through our varied local waterways. While our island can certainly seem overcrowded and confining at times, being waterbound certainly has its advantages; Brookhaven has hundreds of miles of shoreline and we will take you exploring in  several of our favorite harbors. With our focus on water safety and padding instruction, we will help you gain confidence and proficiency in your own abilities to go out on your own aquatic travels. Participants will have the opportunity to develop both kayaking and stand-up paddling proficiency. Our hope is that you will not only learn to explore our waterways, but that you will also be inspired to become stewards in protecting  these local natural gifts.

Week Two: Off-Island

While Avalon firmly believes in being grounded to our familiar landscapes, we also recognize the intrinsic value in traveling away from our places of comfort to challenge ourselves and enrich our lives.

Week two will take us to the granite state of New Hampshire to hike and ramble through the spectacular White Mountains. With the highest peaks on the in the Northeast, the Whites will allow you to explore  deep forests, boulder-strewn mountain sides and spectacular ridglines. A short five hour drive from the Port Jefferson ferry brings us to a landscape that is both breathtaking and challenging. Staying in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s hiker lodging, we will set out each day to new hikes and adventures. While participants need not have any hiking experience, they will certainly need to be physically active in the months leading up to the program, as typical hiking days will range between five and ten miles. We will spend time discussing proper hike planning, group dynamics, appropriate gear, map skills and other essential things to keep in mind when heading out on trail.

T.S. Eliot wrote, We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” As you return to Long Island from your mountain travels, Avalon is sure that you will come to see your own environment with new appreciation and respect.

200 Harbor Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790 • 631-689-0619
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